graduate job search
Kitty Harris
Friday, November 24, 2017
6 min read

8 ways your CV is hindering your graduate job search

If you’ve left university recently, then you are probably on the hunt for a graduate job. The first step involves writing a brand new CV. Your CV will be critical in your graduate job search because it is the first thing about you that employers see. The CV that you used to land a job in the student union bar is probably not the same document you want to be handing out to prospective graduate employers. It needs a revamp, so get ready to fix it up (and your graduate job search will suddenly become a lot easier, we promise).


Before you begin you need to be aware of the ways that your CV is not quite cutting it. Otherwise you could go in there and start editing all the good stuff out and leaving in your mistakes. Take a moment to get out the red pen and circle everything that needs to be changed. Use our list as a guide:


1. It’s way, way too long

There is a reason why you will see countless recruitment and hiring managers posting blogs about how long a CV should be. The reason for this is because they are the ones that have to read through them, and any CV that takes too long causes the reader to lose interest (possibly before they get to the good bit). It’s that which will land your CV on the ‘no’ pile with alarming speed, because when there are a hundred others to get through, unfortunately there simply isn’t time to finely comb your 6 pages. You’ve probably heard it before, but we will say it again: keep it to two pages, absolute maximum (kudos if you manage to get it down to one, but we know that’s a big ask!).


2. It hasn’t been proof-read

Proof-reading is the one thing that you don’t have to do all by yourself. In fact, it is a much better idea to get someone else to read it over. It is very easy for our own eyes to slide over slight miss-spellings if we wrote them and know the sentence they fit into. A silly mistake like ‘BA Mathmatics’ might not register to your own eyes straight away, but anyone else will wonder how you could spell your own degree name wrong.


3. It doesn’t highlight key skills

Here’s a little-known hack to writing your CV: research the types of jobs that you want to apply for and see what skills are commonly listed on job specifications. Write down a list, work out which ones you have, and then integrate them into your CV appropriately. Highlight them in bold to make it easier for those reading it to pick out your attributes and apply them to their own set of criteria.


4. It has strange font choices

If you aren’t a primary school teacher, then you have zero reason to go anywhere near Comic Sans. Pick a classic font for your CV and don’t be tempted to throw in jazzy headings. Unless you are committed to the art of typography and are certain that you understand font parings and what works well, it’s best to steer clear of being too ‘out-there’ and stick to something like Arial. Otherwise you risk bad readability and the chance of being misunderstood because of something so small and fixable.


5. It’s a word document

By all means, create your CV in Microsoft Word, but when it comes to sending it out to potential employers and recruiters, send it as a PDF. Sending it as a word document can cause a few issues – those fun fonts we talked about earlier? Suddenly complete gibberish on a different computer. Your beautiful tables? Utterly skew-whiff formatting. Saving it as a PDF is a failsafe way to ensure that it will look the same on your screen as it does on everyone else’s, so it just makes sense.


6. You’ve used the word ‘I’ too much

The personal statement section on your CV can become stilted at the best of times (it’s an awkward thing to write), but what’s worse is repetitive use of the word ‘I’. You don’t have to write in the third person, just take the time to write with personality and style. This is what NOT to do:


“I recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a 2:1. I have experience in XYZ and I am now seeking a job at a high-growth startup. I am happy to relocate and I thrive on new challenges.”


This is the same information with less of the word ‘I’:


Having recently graduated with a 2:1 from the University of Manchester, I am now looking to put my experience in XYZ to good use at a high-growth startup. New challenges are always welcome and relocating is not a problem.


Which do you prefer?


7. It has too many clichés

So, another point on the personal statement. There are a lot of clichés that get thrown around, and everybody is guilty of it at some stage. Almost everyone seems to be a ‘team player, who also works well individually’, and most are ‘confident in their ability to deliver results above and beyond’. These might be true, but they are boring to read and give almost no real insight into who you are as an individual. Instead, focus on being personable and talk about things that demonstrate who you are and what you expect your next steps to be. It is a lot more interesting to the person reading it, and might even make them think that they would like to bring you in to hear more.


8. There isn’t enough white space

White space serves to make your CV look uncluttered and therefore easily scanned. Having everything cramped up into the corners is unpleasant and difficult to disentangle into focus points. Leave sufficient space around each section and let the information breathe. Just make sure that you don’t accidentally leave an extra white page at the end due to bad formatting!


Now you have fixed up your CV, get serious with your graduate job search! Have a look over the roles on BrighterBox and attach your beautiful new CV to your profile before hitting apply.

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